Don’t Just Hand Them The Keys, Use A Tenant Move In Process

by |

Your property is move in ready.  You have shown it to several potential tenants.  You have screened your applicants and selected the person that best fits your criteria.  Now all you need to do is give them the keys and let them move in right?  Wrong.  Now is the time for the tenant move-in process which is almost as important as the tenant screening process.  The move in process is the time you get everything in writing, set out the ground rules and lay the groundwork to get your property back in great condition.

Download Your FREE Tenant Screening Guide!

Hey there! Screening tenants can be a tricky business, and this critical step can be the difference between profits and disaster. To help you with your real estate investing journey, feel free to download BiggerPockets’ complimentary Tenant Screening Guide and get the information you need to find great tenants.

Click Here For Your Free Tenant Screening Guide

Here are four things to do before giving your tenant the keys.

  1. Read the tenant the lease and house rules, word for word.  Ask you new tenant to set aside about an hour to attend a lease signing meeting. Ideally you would have a private office to conduct this meeting but any quite location will do.  During this meeting, read them the lease and the house rules word for word and have them initial and sign the more important clauses.  Some have even gone to interactive computer/videos here, but we are not quite that advanced yet.
  2. Give them a move-in/move-out checklist.  Such a checklist will show the date the tenant moved in and have spaces for the tenant to note any damages or other issues with the property that they notice upon their move in.  Ideally, this checklist will have several carbon copies so the tenant can keep one and return the remainder to you after move in.  You can then use that same checklist when they move out to check for further damages that may have been caused by the tenant.
  3. Provide them with a repair cost list.  Give your new tenant a list of charges that could be deducted from their security deposit when they move out.  Leave a burned out light bulb, that is a $10 charge.  Leave some spoons and forks in the kitchen drawer, another $10.  Mini-blind replacements run $20 each.  Major repairs are billed at cost of materials and labor.  The idea here is to get them thinking at the very beginning to treat your property with respect since they know they will be charged later on if they do not.  Your goal is to get the property back in as close to rent ready condition as possible.  Give them the same list again when they provide notice they are moving.
  4. Make a video of the property.  Smart phones are ubiquitous these days, use yours to make a video of the property with the tenant there upon move in if possible.  You can use this video later on to show the condition of the property upon move in.  Nothing speaks volumes or settles disputes better than a video.

The point of these four procedures is to protect your valuable assets by setting the tone with your tenants from the very beginning.  Show them that you are a respectable landlord, that runs their business well and that you expect them to treat your property as if it was their own.  Doing some work on the front end at move in can really save you some time and money on the back end after move out.

Photo: Josa Júnior

About Author

Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.


  1. Sharon Vornholt

    Kevin –

    This is the exact move in procedure every landlord should use every time. If you do this if you end up in court one day, you have demonstrated that you documented the condition of the property completely, the tenant knew and understood all of the conditions of the lease, and they were aware upfront of the amounts that would be charged for damage to the property. There is no way a judge won’t like this.

    Great info.

    • Kevin Perk


      Oh, there is a way:), but if you follow these procedures everything will most likely turn out OK. We just try and protect ourselves the best we can and set high standards upfront.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


    • Kevin Perk


      Your list will depend on what you want to charge based upon what your time and your contractors time is worth. Add to that the cost of materials, gas to get the materials, etc, etc. and you can come up with a pretty good list that reflects your costs.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


  2. On #4, I have been told that courts are really not setup for the technology of video and that you will be wasting time setting something up. Judges don’t like wasting time and will get irritated with you, so pictures are the #1 thing to use, even if you have 50 photos, they are readily available.

    On #1, I already go over the lease with the new tenant (mine are 7 pages) but don’t read word for word as I hated when teachers did that in school. I assume the tenant can read. But I do go over each section and explain each section to them.

    And $10 for a light bulb? A light bulb is $1 at the very most. Are you sure a judge wouldn’t say that this is an excessive cost? That would be $9 for 1 minute of labor, or $540 per hour (unless it takes more than one person to screw in a light bulb, and if so, there’s a joke in there somewhere). I think about what a judge would allow and consider “reasonable” in case someone would try to sue.

    • 1) Shoot a video and you can easily lift 50 framed shots when its time to go to court. Load it up on your computer, use a simple tool like Jing to snap a screenshot at critical spots, and then take your phone with you, so you have both.

      2) 1 minute of labor to swap a lightbulb? Are you you missing the part of traveling to/from the unit, traveling to/from Home Depot, and/or spatial cost of storing spares? You can haggle over exactly where the line is drawn, but it’s more than simply cost of parts plus time to screw it into the socket. $10 doesn’t sound outrageous. A further point is that the tenant can still walk away before accepting this.

      • I’m making the assumption you’re not driving to the property to just screw in a light bulb, that you’d be there doing other things as well. If all you have to do when a tenant moves out is change a light bulb, you’re in pretty good shape.

        • Kevin Perk


          I have to go to the property to see what condition it is in after the move out and determine if any repairs need to be made. My goal with the repair list is to get as few repairs as possible. After all, the lights were working when they moved in, why should they not be when they move out?

          Trust me, it is never just one light bulb. They either leave the place spic and span or they do not. If the do not, it is my fault and I have some internal evaluation to do.

          Thanks for the comments,


    • Kevin Perk


      Greg did a good job answering your first question.

      As to your second question, never assume anything and who cares if they hate it.

      On your third, yep, $10 for a light bulb. That is what my time is worth to change it. So I tell them upfront what it will cost them if I have to change it because you see I really do not want to have to change it, but if I have to I want it to be worth my time. Trust me, most do not leave burned out bulbs. Greg also had a good answer here.

      Thanks for the questions and for reading,


      • I agree with Dawn.
        This may be fine in some states but if you had a charge like that in MA it would get tossed and the judge would go over everything else to see if you had any other unreasonable items.
        Of course that is subjective so pray they aren’t tenant lovers.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if they invalidated the entire lease and granted another 30-90 days for them to leave based on that one item!

        Fyi I have been moving my portfolio out of state. 🙂

        • Kevin Perk


          I think I could make a pretty good argument that my charges are reasonable. My time is valuable too!

          But I understand where you are coming from, some jurisdictions are not landlord friendly. Heck, they are not even landlord neutral.

          Good luck with you move. I bet you are not the only one.

          Thanks for reading and commenting,


  3. Be cautious with #3. Make sure that your cost list states that it is only an estimate and is subject to change. Failure to do this may put you on the hook to charge these prices at move out. If your tenant was there for 10 years the costs would be under actual replacement cost.

    Personally I am not a fan of cost lists. I supply invoices for all repairs done so they know I am being honest with my damage costs. It is not like they damaged the item because they thought it was cheap. They damaged it, they pay for it.

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account


Log In Here